At the 30th anniversary of my years in youth ministry I compiled my thoughts on what I learned about youth ministry and created a list of practices that I believe make up a good youth ministry (found here). One of the practices is “Youth Strive for Challenge, So Challenge. I wrote this then:
“The increased popularity of extreme sports is one proof of this true desire for a challenge. Extreme sports is all about the challenge. Another proof is the increase enrollment in AP and IB education programs. Some youth want more challenging curriculum so they feel challenged in their education. Their education means more than seat warming for something that is easy for them. They will take a C in an AP or IB class over an easy A in a regular class.
“Be sure in your youth ministry to set the challenge of what a life of faith is which is a challenge. You will be growing true disciples and teaching new converts the true way of faith. The challenge will be respected no matter what their personal decisions are. And remember, youth ministry is part of a lifelong journey. The challenge you set will go with them throughout their lives even if they don’t decide to follow those few short years you have with them.”
I still believe this. Which is why I found this Washington Post article most interesting.
The title is “Want to keep your new middle-schooler out of trouble? Then let them take risks” That is an attention-getting headline. Continue reading
In honor of back-to-school everywhere, this thought from Dork Diaries, authored by Rachel Renee Russell.
The Biology of My Heartbreak
I see you in my dreams
In your favorite white button-down shirt,
Sitting across from in the cafeteria.
I’ve never seen anyone eat fries so beautifully.
I see you in biology class,
Taking pictures for the school newspaper, when
You whisper to the depths of my soul,
‘Hold the frog at an angle.’
For it is only you who can make a photo of a dissected frog seem so vibrant.
So alive. Yet dead.
It hurts to feel this way,
To know that you’ll never know me.
To want to run my fingers through your dark, wavy hair,
As I realize that the putrid smell of formaldehyde
And the dull gas of a lifeless frog will forever remind ME of US!”
While teaching at camps this summer, I addressed the issue of pornography. Pornography definitely gets in the way of bravery and hope. From the creative and anonymous response I used as a lead for forgiveness, I received a LOT of written notes about porn. I didn’t speak on it for an entire message. It was just a short and very specific sub-point yet it really hit hard to these camp teens.
So I pass on to you this blog post from a brother from another mother. In fact, it is someone I don’t even know but I really appreciated the information.
The Normalization of Porn in the Church: What the Church Needs to do Now
Life is an ice rink, and we’re all children trying to learn how to skate. There will be stretches of fast, smooth gliding–and plenty of tripping. Enough bloggers have written about “the key to perfection” and “secrets to success”. It’s time to learn how to fall and how to fail.
First off, we must expect to fail and accept that failure is not a sign of personal weakness. Assuming that a new skater will be able to glissade across smooth ice as soon as her skates have been tied is simply unrealistic. It doesn’t matter how old you are–we’re always being exposed to fresh circumstances. Would you scold a little child for falling on the ice? Of course not! Refuse to treat yourself badly. Say nothing to or about yourself that you wouldn’t say to your dearest loved one.
Next, we learn how to fall. Have you ever taken skating lessons? There are techniques you must learn that will ensure falling safety. Such is true in life. One of the best things I’ve learned to do is come up with a list of ways to cope with sadness and disappointment to avoid resorting to self-hatred. Spend time with yourself. Run a hot bath, light some candles, and listen to some Debussy (an hour of Debussy here). Take a walk and engage your sense of smell. Do anything that relaxes you and lightens your mood. This way, you’ll know what to do when you fail.
She was the type of girl who cried at the littlest reprimand or stern look. Her whole world was a fragile house of cards supported by false hopes; and harshness, rejection, and malice were never included. Everything was a daydream: sticks were spears, creeks were oceans, sheds were skyscrapers. Her mind was always on things she could never hold in her hands, concepts far beyond her years. All around her mind were metaphors. Cereal pieces floated apart in her bowl of milk, and her heart broke–to her, they were two friends shattering a beautiful bond. How could they be so cruel? she wondered. But she never stopped to answer her own question, because the next fantasy was waiting, and there was no room in her busy mind for sadness.
Four years later, she was ten, feeling the weight of some cruelly, carelessly uttered insults collapsing her fragile, idealized worldview. Suddenly, she understood. Rejection, exclusion, and sadness painfully squeezed their way into her brain. And in that distressing process, more than a few daydreams were pushed away. The years brought bumps and bruises, wounds that refused to turn into callouses. By thirteen, she was lost. Who was she? Where could she find more hopes to build another house of cards? She looked into the mirror one day and decided that she was nobody. All she considered herself to be was an item for someone else. Countless times she offered her heart and her body to anyone who would take it. She wanted to be loved, and to belong somewhere–anywhere. Nobody could satisfy her deep hunger for attention, connection, and attachment. The highs and lows, the fear, and the insecurities commanded her until she fell to her knees and quit. Once again, she found herself on the bathroom floor shaking, her shabbily duct-taped heart bursting from her chest.
Don’t do your best. I mean it. Let yourself fail to live up to your full potential. Shocked? It’s okay. I would be too. But hear me out. I want you to think about your very best. Not just a good effort–I mean everything you have in yourself, every last scrap of effort and stamina you’ve saved up in your entire existence. Now imagine exerting yourself that much for months–in a school or work setting, primarily. You’d quit like a rickety minivan with no gas. You’d have nothing left in you at all. But you did your best, right? That’s all that matters!
Not. You know what matters more? Your physical, mental, and emotional health. Your well-being is infinitely more important than any job or task you have. I’m not telling you to slack off. I’m warning you not to do your best if you care about your health at all. Do the best that you can without sacrificing yourself. There is no need to push yourself until you give in to exhaustion, because it will take forever to gain back that energy. Doing the best that you possibly can means neglecting yourself and your basic needs. It means ignoring any opportunity to relax and have fun. And that’s not a sacrifice you want to make, trust me.
Don’t do your best. Work hard while keeping self-care and well-being a priority. You are a human being with limits. Don’t let your boss, teacher, or anyone tell you to neglect your needs. Fun and relaxation are requirements to healthy living. And healthy living is what we should strive for.
Last spring I went to Israel, and committed a cultural faux pas before even getting off the plane.
I was on the plane to Israel with my college cohort. Now, you have to understand that this was not just a run-of-the-mill trip to Israel, if such a thing exists. This was the trip, the culmination and consummation of our college education. We had spent the last semester and a half studying Israel’s geography, geology, archaeology, people groups, cultures, and languages. This trip was the payoff.
Before the payoff, however, came an eleven-hour flight, the majority of which I spent searching through the available in-flight movies, trying to find the film that would properly prepare my heart for Israel.
Batman Begins? Nah…
Ooh, Thor 2! Continue reading
Okay. I’ve had a problem with this ad since the first time I saw it. Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I’m overreacting. But I feel the need to discuss it anyway, because something just sounded off about it.
“When I have a huge zit on my face, everyone’s talking to that part of my face.”
Okay. In the first five seconds of the ad, we’re hearing insecurity. I get it, nobody likes acne. But honestly? Do people really stare at your zit when they’re talking to you? Of course not. Now, I would understand that it could feel that way, but it’s not. It makes me sad that a product is being sold to me on basis of insecurity. Why the insecurity? Why?
“I don’t want people to remember me as the girl with the zit, I want them to remember me as me.” Continue reading
Look at the bravery in this story from Luke 5.
Luke 5:12 – In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy.
When you click the “continue reading” button you will see a picture of an advanced case of leprosy. It is too gross to post for all surfers to see. Leprosy is a disease that works like an anesthetic that attacks the pain cells of hands, feet, nose, ears, and eyes to produce numbness. Leprosy is a bad disease because sufferers simply have a defective pain system. So say you have leprosy and you have sprained your ankle. You won’t know that you sprained your ankle because the pain system to tell you that it is sprained is defective. Instead of stabilizing your ankle and staying off of it, you would continue to walk on it thus increasing the damage until permanent damage is done. Hence the damage in the picture. The man in our story is in the advance stages of leprosy so we can safely assume that he has a lot of appendage damage. He also may be near blind as another effect of leprosy is blindness because the defective pain system in your body doesn’t tell your eyelids to blink when a particle gets into it. Continue reading